Friday, December 04, 2009

Car Trouble - part 2

I like dialog. One might go so far as to say I'm a conversation junkie. I like verbal exchanges, word play, innuendos, double entendre and yes, even puns. I particularly like conversations where the two main characters get to know one another.

I did a few "first meetings" not long ago, and I decided to revisit that and post a few more. This is the first part of a novel called "Car Trouble" - as yet unfinished.

The disconcerting thing about this novel is that I had car trouble myself in the exact spot that Kent has car trouble in the first chapter. Only that didn't inspire this tale, because that happened weeks after I started this story. In fact, I was driving home from a meeting planning to work on it when my tire blew.

My rescuer wasn't a hunky male, he looked more like Rodney Dangerfield, but he was friendly and efficient, getting me back on the road safe and sound.


I got out, dragging my meager possessions with me. There was more in the car, but I wasn't about to try to carry it all. Taking my other keys off the ring, I left my car key with Rosalie in the office and followed Cadence to her pickup.

"Mr. Mason, you look like a man in need of a cup of coffee," Cadence said as we hopped into her dark colored pickup.

"I do indeed, Miss Jacoby. I'm beat, but wide awake, if that makes any sense."

"I understand completely. I live on caffeine when I work this shift. I don't usually take it, just covering for one of the guys. He's out with the flu."

She pulled into an all night diner, parking out front. It was surprisingly full for nearly three o'clock in the morning. We found a booth, ordered coffee and pie and sat there awkwardly trying to find something to talk about.

I got a good look at my companion for the first time. She was an attractive brunette, probably in her late twenties or early thirties. Athletically built, she was muscular and looked stronger than some men I know. I'm no slack, but she could whoop my ass easy if I got too fresh. Her eyes were a dark hazel rimmed with long, black lashes. Dressed in jeans and a company T-shirt in day glow green, she looked very competent.

I felt even more as if I had spent the last twenty-four hours in the same suit. I was clammy and sticky, my T-shirt and underwear still damp from sitting in a too hot car while I waited for the tow truck.

"Pardon my saying, Mr. Mason, you look beat."

"Kent," I mumbled. "I am. It's been a long trip."

"Well, at least you had car trouble close to home."

"Yeah. It's been giving me serious trouble since Tallahassee. I kept having visions of getting stranded along I-10 in the middle of B.F.E. I hate that stretch of road."

"Having had car trouble along there, I sympathize. I was lucky it wasn't anything serious. I was able to fix it and got back on the road. It was creepy out in the dark though. I kept imagining someone sneaking up on me while I had my head in the engine."

"Oh, you fix cars as well? I thought you just drove the truck."

"My dad taught me how to tear down and rebuild an engine when I was ten. I've been working on cars since I was little."

"I know about this much," I held my fingers an inch apart. "Put the key in, turn it, internal combustion takes place and it moves. If one of those steps fails to happen...." I spread my hands helplessly.

She grinned, her dark eyes twinkling. "Then you call me."

"Exactly!"

"So, you're an author, huh? What kind of books to you write?"

"Crime novels, for the most part. Though I've tried my hand at other things as well. I've got a sci-fi series and even a few of romance novels."

"Romance? You aren't secretly gay, are you?"

"Why does everyone think that? Men can write romance novels too, you know. Of course, mine are more smut than romance...."

I laughed at my joke, I write mostly historical romance and they aren't very smutty. However, I can turn my hand at smut if it helps pay the bills.

"Oh, smut boy, huh?" She grinned, taking a sip of her coffee.

I sipped mine too, stinging my mouth. Gasping, I gulped my water to cool my blistered tongue. Eyes watering, I stirred my coffee and took a bite of my pie.

"I should have warned you," she looked concerned. "It's the hottest coffee I've ever had. I don't know how they do it."

"Pass it through a nuclear generator," I speculated. "Dear God, that's hot! Now that I've nearly killed myself, do you need to warn me about the pie?"

Cadence giggled, shaking her head. "I haven't hurt myself on the pie yet. Though apple... You never know with apple. They might have dropped a hand grenade in there."

"Yep, you'd never know the difference."

"Until you blew up."

"That would give it away, for sure."

"One might even say, 'a dead give away'," she smirked.

I know it's a cheesy joke, but I couldn't stop laughing. Blame it on a lack of sleep, or the fact I'd been traveling for nearly two weeks. Whatever it was, I felt like a complete idiot.
When I started to choke, I felt like a pathetic, lame, weak, complete idiot.

"Are you okay?" Her eyes held concern.

I could see myself in the window, turning red in the face, blue eyes watering, blond curly hair awry. All I could do was nod and gasp, so I did. No words came out, just gasping. Pretty soon everyone in the diner was looking at me. I could see a couple guys in the corner mentally reviewing the Heimlich Maneuver and wondered vaguely if it worked on liquid. I was pretty sure it didn't. Eventually, I stopped gasping and coughing, eyes watering like crazy. I looked like a victim of tear gas.

"Sorry," I wheezed. "Water went down wrong."

"You're a wreck, Kent."

Mentally, I was kicking myself. I liked this woman. She was bright and interesting with a similar sense of humor. Not only that, she was gorgeous. Except for book signings, I don't get out a lot and I haven't had a proper date since 1996.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. Not since 2006 when I got divorced. To be specific, I was figuratively ganked in the courtroom when my wife took virtually everything I owned. I now live in a modest rental home in Edgewater when I used to have a magnificent beach house in New Smyrna. My wife has the magnificent beach home, my Porsche and my dog, Ripper.

I realized with a lurch that my companion was speaking and I hadn't heard much of what she said.

"Kent, are you sure you're okay? You don't look so hot."

"Exhausted, Cadence. Nothing more."

"Maybe I better take you home."

I insisted on paying for our coffee and pie, leaving a more generous tip than it was worth, but I felt like I should atone for the choking fit in some way.


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